Attorney General Garland Issues Call to Action to Legal Community to Assist in Eviction Crisis
- Attorney General of the United States
On August 30, 2021 Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued a video and public letter to members of the legal community urging them to help ensure equal access to justice in the face of the pending eviction crisis by providing assistance to vulnerable tenanats at risk of eviction. Below is his video statement:
Attorney General Garland's letter notes that as federal and local eviction moratoriums expire around the country, eviction filings are expected to spike to roughly double their pre-pandemic levels. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, over six million American households report that they are behind on rent. Over three million households that are behind on rental payments believe they may be evicted in the next two months.
The Attorney General noted that:
"The legal profession is well positioned to provide support for tenants, landlords, and courts during this crisis. Promoting access to justice to ensure that our justice system delivers outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth or status, is one of the highest ideals of the legal profession."
He urged lawyers and law students to apply their legal training and skills to help their local communities. Some specific steps recommended included:
- Help Applicants Access Rental Assistance. Lawyers and law students can reach out to state and local ERAP administrators to offer to (1) help get the word out about these funds, and (2) assist applicants through the application process. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Rental Assistance Finder tool can help you identify the local ERAP administrator in your area.
- Volunteer with your local legal aid provider. Advocates were urged to reach out to these organizations and volunteer to provide legal counseling or representation to tenants as they apply for rental assistance, mediate disputes with landlords, or litigate eviction filings in court.
- Help local courts implement eviction diversion programs. State courts have been encouraged to adopt eviction diversion strategies to to help families avoid the disruption and damage of evictions, assist tenants and landlords in obtaining rental assistance, and relieve court dockets. Advocates are urged to support these efforts by voluteering to serve as a mediator or appointed counsel, or as a neutral resource to assist the court in explaining to the parties how ERAP applications can be submitted. Advocates are also urged to work with local bar leaders to assist courts in setting up such systems where they do not exist.
Federal employees were also urged to contact the Federal Government Pro Bono Program to identify opportunities to provide pro bono representation in housing cases and assistance at legal aid clinics.
The letter concluded by stating that the legal community has an obligation to help those who are most vulnerable. The legal community can do that by doing everything we can to ensure that people have a meaningful opportunity to stay in their homes and that eviction procedures are carried out in a fair and just manner.
- Pro Bono